Repository logo

Negotiated feminism? a study of married Bemba women appropriating the Imbusa pre-marital 'curriculum' at home and workplace.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Imbusa spaces (anthropologists refers to it as initiation rites) are often perceived as cultural spaces for uneducated, rural women, yet, even educated Bemba (Zambian) women undergo these rites as well. Imbusa teachings (consisting of sacred emblems/visual aids handed to brides) are important for the Bemba people and essential to the marriageability of a woman in almost similar ways that education qualifies one to be employable. This empirical study focused on Bemba married career women, living in the Copperbelt province of Zambia. The objectives of this study were first, to discuss the imbusa teachings regarding Bemba career women. Second, to determine how career married women learn, negotiate, and resist amafunde yambusa in their homes and at places of work. Third, I analyzed why Bemba married career women negotiate, engage or resist amafunde yambusa in their homes and at places of work in the way that they do. The study was framed through Nnaemeka’s (2003) feminist postcolonial concept of Nego-feminism. Snowball sampling was used and seventeen Bemba married career women were interviewed using feminist interviewing to produce data concerning the indigenous imbusa teachings of the Bemba people in the Copperbelt province of Zambia. African cultural hermeneutics and community of practice theories were used as tools for analyzing the produced data. Findings established that Bemba women, like women from other ethnic groups within Zambia, have been progressing in careers and education, while they are given a teaching that has remained static in some of its content. At the same time, the teachings received at imbusa have been tainted with cultural aspects from various cultures that the Bemba people encountered upon migrating to the Copperbelt. I have demonstrated how women move and live between two parallel worlds – the public and private spheres – and hence have a conflictive consciousness with regard to their identity in the two worlds. This implies a need to a revisit the traditional syllabus or curriculum so that it is in line with current debates on women’s issues. The study concludes with a proposal for a progressive curriculum for career women that is inclusive of teachings on gender justice, masculinities and femininities, and involves men as part of certain aspects of the teachings, since currently it is only women who are taught in imbusa.


Doctor of Philosophy in Theology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2016.


Theses : Theology.